Building the braintrust

The multifamily industry feels the direct impact of rising utility costs on their bottom line, and in their residents' satisfaction. Keeping these costs fair, and low, is essential to being competitive in today's rental market.

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The future of utility management in our industry is abundant in opportunity, yet fraught with challenge. Collaboration is critical as we move forward, and that’s why I’m proud to serve as president and chairman of the inaugural Utility Management Advisory (UMA) Board, specifically focused on the multifamily industry.

UMAdvisory is an industry think tank created to facilitate information exchange and share utility management best practices among multifamily owners and managers.

The founding board, representing a cross section multifamily owners and operators, seeks to leverage their real world experiences and knowledge into a useful archive of data. This data will then be available to educate and inform other owners and operators, while helping them stay ahead of emerging policies, and utility operations and requirements.

UMAdvisory was launched by NWP Services Corp., headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif., at the bequest of its customers, partners and others in the industry looking to create a forum and advocacy for multifamily operations, as the number one aggrate consumer of our nation’s utilities.

With the group’s structure in place, NWP has stepped back as a non-voting, administrative partner. We appreciate their support, and desire to step up to the plate to get this initiative launched. UMAdvisory’s Board of Directors is now formed, and focused on assembling other key industry professionals to drive UMAvisory growth and impact, and become the industry thought-leader for opertions innovation.

When focusing on controlling expenses that the industry has deemed “uncontrollable,” I have feel like an island, working alone without the most basic knowledge and resources.

I want to be a part of UMAdvisory to open dialogue with my peers regarding managing these major expenses, specifically to uncover what works, and what doesn’t. There is a need for peer group discussion on the many operational facets of utilities. I want to be a part of the creation of something new and revolutionary in our industry, and this is it. It is easy to accept the status quo, and scary, but necessary to reach beyond blind acceptance and challenge what is possible with regard to how our properties and our industry treat utilities.

I feel that the UMAdvisory is an opportunity to create change, and I needed to part of that.

My fellow UMAdvisory board member Tom Spangler, energy manager for Greystar Management’s procurement and sustainability team, recently shared with me his view that today’s renters have higher expectations for green living than the industry has offered heretofore. He is hopeful that the UMA will help multifamily operators find energy solutions that make financial sense, and help them better market their apartments to this new, more environmentally-conscious renter.

We are looking into a future where consumers evaluate utility rates in the same way they compare other apartment amenities. We stand in the midst of utility regulatory turmoil in a number of states. We pride ourselves on being informed, but with so many facets of utilities changing across the country, it’s difficult to stay on top; how are these issues being resolved, and changing regulatory environments across the country?

Mark Copeland with WestCorp Management Group has also joined the UMAdvisory board. He was driven by recognition of the value in information sharing across the country. Most property management companies do not have on-the-ground visibility in all markets. Joining an organization that brings together leadership from across the country provides that nationwide information sharing, and real-world experience that will be key to driving consistent success.

This is truly a revolutionary approach to peers and partners, who, by joining together, can share best practices across the industry. This will be especially important with regard to controlling major expenses and ensuring that we have a model that is both green, and sustainable.

We’re look forward to great discussion, solutions and collaboration on these tough issues surrounding utility management in the multifamily housing industry. Join us, won’t you?

Author: A letter from Mary Nitschhke, UMA president